Is there any point getting a free Mac VPN?

Apple MacBook
(Image credit: Amar Shrestha /

Should you bother getting a VPN that's free for your Apple Mac? The answer to this question is yes, but with a caveat.

Using a Mac VPN is crucial to maintaining your privacy and security online, and there are many ways that a virtual private network can make it safer to check your email and bank accounts, browse the internet, and share files privately and securely. That said, free services have certain limitations, which we explore below.

What are the risks of not using a VPN on a Mac?

Many Mac users choose Apple over Windows because it has traditionally been considered a more secure platform and operating system. However, you should not think that your personal data is safe when you connect to the internet. The fact is, there are many risks associated with going online, for both Windows and Mac users.

When you connect to the internet over public Wi-Fi, even if the website you’re accessing uses the HTTPS protocol, hackers and cybercriminals can easily snoop on your activity and collect your data.

In terms of cybersecurity, the best protection is often just having better security than the next person. Cybercriminals can tell quite quickly who the easy targets are, and tend to go after them. A secure VPN is a simple way to make sure you’re not one of those easy targets.

But even when you’re on your home network, you’re not entirely safe. Internet service providers not only monitor their users’ online activities, but many of them log every move that users make. Some even sell the information to third parties and divulge it to the government. A VPN is the only way to ensure your valuable online privacy.

What are the limitations of using a free VPN?

A free VPN is better than no VPN, but there are limitations. Hotspot Shield Free VPN, for example, is one of the best free options out there, but this version only enables you to access certain server locations and limits your total daily bandwidth to 500MB. If you only need to occasionally use a VPN for checking your bank accounts or shopping online, though, that may be enough.

Another common limitation has to do with support, which is either limited or unavailable to free users. If you’re comfortable configuring and using a VPN, this might not be a problem, but the technology behind these services is complex and doesn’t always work flawlessly. 

Many freebies also limit the number and range of devices that you can use. On the other hand, paid VPNs, like ExpressVPN, work on Mac, iOS/iPadOS, Android, and Windows. While Surfshark also supports an unlimited number of devices and only costs a few dollars per month.

Finally, many VPNs throttle speed for free users, meaning that file sharing, torrenting, and streaming is practically impossible. If you want to use a VPN in order to watch foreign Netflix or to unblock YouTube videos, you should go for a paid service. 

Is there any point getting a free Mac VPN?

If your VPN needs are limited to a single device, such as for occasionally checking emails or bank accounts on public Wi-Fi, then you’re probably fine just using a free Mac VPN. It’s certainly better than not using a VPN at all.

However, there are serious limitations. With the low monthly rates of some of the best VPN providers available today, a paid VPN is a great investment in your online security and privacy. 

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Christian Rigg

Christian is a freelance writer and content project manager with 6+ years' experience writing and leading teams in finance and technology for some of the world's largest online publishers, including TechRadar and Tom's Guide.